Twitter users who closely follow news about China may have noticed a strange phenomenon recently -- a flood of messages from photogenic Westerners eagerly tweeting their support for China's policies in Tibet.
Some tweets attack the Dalai Lama and those who meet with him. Some hail achievement under Chinese rule ("Tibetans hail bumper harvest of highland barley"). Others link to articles describing the Tibet as "peaceful" and "idyllic."
According to the London-based organization Free Tibet, these Twitter accounts - filled with praise for the Chinese government -- are fake.
Earlier this week, the organization announced that it had uncovered around 100 fake Twitter accounts that were devoted to spreading pro-Chinese propaganda about both Tibet and Xinjiang, the Muslim-majority area in Western China. The fake accounts used photos of celebrities - including former Pink Floyd frontman Syd Barrett and the actress Erica Durance - as well as stock images and photos taken from online photography portfolios to create the illusion the tweets were from real people.
“It’s an insidious effort to change the message and muddy the waters about Tibet,” Alastair Currie, Free Tibet’s media manager, told the New York Times.
Since Free Tibet revealed the results of its investigation, several of the reportedly fake accounts have been taken down.